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“I made myself grow up, and put away childish things. I thought the adult world was a prosaic sort of place where everything was clear-cut, everything was tangible; but it isn’t. It isn’t.”

Prospero’s Children by Jan Siegel hits almost every important GU plot point, and was very engaging… but the author made an abrupt shift in the second half that almost lost my interest.

Fernanda (Fern) is 16 when her family inherits an old house in the English countryside. Her mother is dead, and her father is often travelling and otherwise rather preoccupied, unaware of the strange goings-on that begin immediately. Fern and her companion-brother Will discover a mysterious connection to the lost world of Atlantis, meet a strange old tramp on the moors who knows all about it, and must race to find a magical key before it is used to destroy the world. Fern’s initial adversary is her father’s girlfriend, who is not what she seems. Other than Will and the tramp, Fern is also assisted by a wolf and a house goblin. The first part of the book is one of those GU examples that takes place entirely within a house. There is a betrayal by a companion, and a feint as to who the real adversary is. The initial adversary manages to destroy herself, but opens a crack in the worlds that Fern must journey to fix.

And then suddenly, we are shifted back in time to Atlantis, where our protagonist has forgotten who she is or why she is there, and yet must still fight the larger adversary and save the world. This second part is just as true to the archetype as the first, but it is a bit jarring to suddenly lose track of all the other characters in the story thus far, and have the main character not even know what’s going on. A daring device, which doesn’t entirely work, but I am glad I stuck with it in the end. Fern acquires new companions and helpers, is able to save all the worlds from being torn apart, and has a more satisfying final showdown with the arch-adversary. Against all odds, she is able to return home, although she is very much a changed girl from the beginning of her adventures.

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